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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO                     113

the regime of the ideal emperors Yao and Tang. All we need to do is
to carry on with a good government."

"That is exactly what I am afraid of," replied the Emperor, "that we
iiatve not been carrying on a good government. I hear so many com-
plaints about the excise tax. Everybody at the court has heard about it,
including the Empress and the Empress Dowager."

Another cabinet minister, Feng Ching, was present, and he said: "So
have I heard also."

"Why, I've never heard anything," replied Wang Anshih. "Mr. Feng
hears all about these grumblings because all the disgruntled persons
flock around him."

Now the little man destined to play the big role appeared. It was
Cheng Shia, the gatekeeper who had made paintings of the refugees.*
Along with these paintings of the victims of the administration working
In chains to cut down trees and obtain cash to pay back the govern-
ment loans, he now sent a brief note to the Emperor.

"Your Majesty:

"It has been the custom after the successful completion of military
campaigns to have paintings made to celebrate the victories. No one,
however, has submitted to you paintings of the hardships and suffer-
ings of the people, paintings that would show families being separated
and refugees roaming over the countryside. Your servant has stood
at the Anshang Gate and daily watched these scenes, and has had a
panoramic picture made of them. These show only one hundredth
part of what I saw, but I know that even you will shed tears when
you see them. Imagine, therefore, those who see the reality in the
provinces! If Your Majesty will look at these pictures and take my
suggestions for abolishing reforms, if it does not rain within ten days,
you can behead me on the execution ground outside the Shuanteh
Gate as a punishment for lying to Your Majesty.

"Your humble servant,

"Cheng Shia"

The Emperor took the scroll of paintings to his sleeping quarters. He
plowed them to the Empress and other members of the royal house-
hold. It was-the Emperor's grandmother f who first spoke:

"I hear that the people are suffering from the draft exemption tax and
the farmers' loans. I do not think that we should change the tradition
set by the ancestors."

*See page 87.

f It w^s the rule that when an emperor's grandmother was living, she, rather
than the emperor's mother, was the empress dowager. In relation to the emperor's
mother, she was mother-in-law, and in relation to the imperial household, she
was the eldest. This empress dowager was the wife of Jentsung, not of Ingtsung.